A Message to the Future

To protect the work they’ve put into restoring their 1905 home in South Bend, Pete Bauer and Mary Ellen O’Connell have made estate plans to leave the property to Indiana Landmarks.

Pete Bauer and Mary Ellen O'Connell, South Bend

Doing Things Differently

After living in Germany and historic Midwestern communities, Mary Ellen O’Connell and Pete Bauer appreciate quality craftsmanship and walkable cities. So, in 2005, when Mary Ellen accepted a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame’s law school in South Bend, the couple made finding a historic home within biking distance of the university a top priority. They found it in the city’s West North Shore Drive Historic District: a 1905 Neoclassical Revival-style house with views of the Saint Joseph River and nearby Leeper Park.

They came to the property with some knowledge of old houses, earned while serving with the U.S. military and living in a fifteenth-century farmhouse in Germany and a nineteenth-century residence in Columbus’s German Village. Since moving in on their house’s 100th anniversary, Mary Ellen and Pete have restored nearly every inch, from the foundation to the roof, working with Buccellato Design, LLC, on the design. They removed 1960s alterations, including a drop-ceiling in the kitchen and exterior aluminum siding, exposing the original clapboard underneath. They uncovered and restored pocket doors—which had been blocked by plywood—and returned the house’s historic windows to working order.

Bauer-O'Connell House, South Bend

“The house was originally built for a banker, but apparently he didn’t believe in books,” jokes Mary Ellen. “Pete designed bookshelves for the room we call the library, one of our favorite spaces.” The couple enjoys relaxing on a balcony that overlooks the river and in the conservatory, named the “winter garden” as it would be called in Germany. In the historic garage that retains its mechanic’s pit, the room that originally housed the property’s chauffer now serves as Pete’s photography studio. “I want something to last 50 years before it breaks, so I’ve always preferred historic houses,” adds Pete.

To ensure their hard work doesn’t go to waste, Mary Ellen and Pete have made estate plans to leave the property to Indiana Landmarks. “We feel like restoring this house has been a gift to our community,” says Mary Ellen. “In leaving it to Indiana Landmarks, it’s a win-win-win. We have the satisfaction of knowing all our efforts are going to be preserved, we’re gifting it to an organization we care a lot about, and we know someone in the future who loves the house as much as we do will get enjoyment out of it.”

Bauer-O'Connell House, South Bend

Pete and Mary Ellen credit their parents with fostering their appreciation for heritage. Pete grew up in Detroit, where his father, a German immigrant, took him and his siblings to historic sites. While living in Indianapolis, Mary Ellen recalls her mother guiding trips to Connor Prairie, the Riley House, Brown County’s Abe Martin lodge, and properties featured on Indianapolis Decorator’s Show House tours.

Their interests naturally led them to become members of Indiana Landmarks. “We’re committed environmentalists, and by saving these places rather than tearing them down and putting them in the landfill, it’s sending a message to the future that we can do things differently,” says Mary Ellen.

To learn more about including Indiana Landmarks in your estate plans, contact Sharon Gamble, Vice President for Development, 317-822-7921, 800-450-4534,

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